Hawai`i State Chapter, Society for Neuroscience

Image Description Here

Dendritic Spine and Synapse

CNS Synapse

Images courtesy Dr. Dennis D. Kunkel (see link below); all rights reserved.

Mission Satement

The mission of this Chapter is to promote neuroscience research and education in the state of Hawai`i. This includes advancing communication between researchers, providing regular information about neuroscience seminars and events, and reaching out to teachers and the community regarding neuroscience education.


  • Neuroscience Seminar Series
  • Guest Seminars
  • Become a member

  • Members and Research Interests

    Below is a listing of the members of the Hawai`i State Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, their research interests, and useful links. An "*" next to the name indicates an active member.
    Should you be listed here? If so, please contact SFN_Webmaster


    Andres, Marilou A.* Program Coordinator, SNRP, PBRC, U. Hawai`i.

    Bitterman, M. E. Professor, Dept of Psych & Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Email    Web Page

    Bellinger, Frederick (Rick) P.* Assitant Research Scientist, Cooke Lab, Bekesy Laboratory, PBRC, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I am interested in taking an interdisciplinary approach to understanding mechanisms of neuronal and synaptic function, development and plasticity. I would like to apply these studies to investigate phenomena such as memory, development, drug addiction and abuse, neuroimmunology, neuropathology, sexual dimorphism, and other areas.

    Blanchard, Bob* Professor, Psychology, U. Hawai`i.

    Bracha, Stefan H.* Research Physician, The Department of Veterans Affairs.
    Interests: Current research via a VA Merit grant and NARSAD grant on ameloblast stress lines as biological markers of early experienced trauma. Research background also in schizophrenia, MZ twins, autism, geriatrics, etc. Presently stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii. Formerly in Little Rock VA.

    Canute, Michael* Junior Researcher, HPU / Stollberg Lab, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: We are interested in teasing out the causal relationships of f-actin and dystrophin complex with the aggregation of acetylcholine receptors on the surface of embryological muscle cells. Aside from my teaching duties at Hawai'i Pacific University I am also actively involved in development of science curricula. I also provide counseling to pre-med students.

    Castelfranco, Ann M.* Associate Professor, Bekesy Laboratory, PBRC, U. Hawai`i.

    Cooke, Ian* Professor, Zoology Dept & Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Email    Web Page

    Couvillon, Patricia A.* Assistant Professor, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Our primary interest is in learning and the evolution of intelligence. We work mostly with honeybees, whose performance in a wide range of learning situations proves to be closely similar to that of vertebrates despite the remoteness of the evolutionary relationship and the vast differences in brain size and organization; broad functional convergence is indicated. In work with pigeons and fish, our primary concern is with the development of quantitative theories of learning that permit exact rather than merely ordinal predictions of experimental outcomes.
    Email    Web Page

    Dowling, Jerry* Retired Psychiatrist,
    Interests: CNS signal transduction - CNS proteomics - CNS functional genomics.

    Efird, Jimmy Thomas* Associate Professor, JABSOM, U.H.
    Interests: My focus is on the epidemiologic study of childhood and adult brain tumours.

    Fleig, Andrea* Senior Scientist/Adjunct Associate Professor, Laboratory of Cell and Molecular Signaling, The Queen's Medical Center Neuroscience Institute/U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Our recent work has concentrated on various aspects of calcium signaling in electrically excitable as well as non-excitable cells using electrophysiology, fluorometry and flow cytometry. Changes in intracellular calcium concentration are employed by practically every cell type to control vital cellular responses such as secretion, contraction, enzyme regulation, gene expression, etc. The sources from which calcium is mobilized can be either intracellular stores or the extracellular medium. Depending on the cell type, there are different short- and long-term mechanisms by which increases in intracellular calcium are accomplished. In addition to its role as an important physiological signaling mechanism, it is also becoming increasingly evident that calcium plays a crucial role in many pathological situations. Based on these premises one of our current projects involves the role of calcium homeostasis in the activation of microglia cells, the only fully immunocompetent cells in the vertebrate brain. In addition we study the regulation of calcium homeostasis in immune cells and the role thereof in cell proliferation.
    Email    Web Page

    Fuller, Mike* Professor, HIGP-SOEST, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: My principal research area is in geophysics, which led through Biomagnetism to my interest in Neuroscience. We carried out some experiments which showed that epileptiform activity could be evoked by magnetic fields. There are several lines of evidence which indicate that Ca channels are involved. I am therefore interested in learning as much as possible about them. The work also suggests that some magnetic force microscopy of membranes might be worthwhile.

    Hartline, Daniel K.* Researcher, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: 1. Motor pattern generation by simple neural networks. In this work we are developing quantitative approaches to the study of integration in simple invertebrate systems (crustacean stomatogastric ganglion, most recently) and emphasize quantitative measurement of cellular and synaptic properties of individually reidentifiable neurons. These measurements are incorporated into physiologically accurate computer models of the networks. Comparison between model predictions and physiological observations expose gaps in our understanding, help determine new directions for investigation and provide new insights into the design and functioning of the systems. Of particular recent interest have been cellular properties which promote endogenous production of nerve impulse bursts, modulatory regulation of these properties, the role of spatial distribution of cellular mechanisms over branching dendritic trees and the involvement of non-spike synaptic interactions in production of motor patterns. 2. Neuroecology of zooplankton sensory systems. In this work we are examining the relation between physiological and morphological properties of a zooplankter's sensory systems (specifically mechano- and chemoreception in copepods) and the animal's behavioral ecology. The sensory systems reflect unusual adaptations to pelagic life when compared to similar systems in behthic and nektonic forms. Particular modifications of these sensory properties may reflect differences in ecology among phyletic groups. Of particular recent interest have been correlating behavioral and physiological properties of sensory triggering of escape responses, and of the triggering of bioluminescent discharges in the deep sea forms.
    Email    Web Page

    Hermosura, Meredith C.* Junior Researcher, Queen's Neuroscience Institute at U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: calcium entry pathways, divalent cation entry and induction of apoptosis in neurodegenerative diseases.

    Keep, Marcus.* Assistant Professor, Matrix Pathobiology Laboratory, Dept. Anatomy, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Basic research interests are in neural transplantation, cyclosporin, neuroprotection, animal models of neurodegenerative disease including Purkinje cell degeneration (pcd)"cerebellar ataxia" mouse and transgenic "ALS" mouse, and epileptogenesis using the kindling model. Clinical research interests are in neurosurgical treatment of movement disorders, epilepsy, using deep brain stimulation, functional Gamma Knife radiosurgery and neural transplantation.
    Email    Web Page

    Kunkel, Dennis. Assistant Researcher, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Email    Web Page

    Landsman, Robert E.* Associate Professor, Curriculum Research & Development Group, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: The electric organ discharge (EOD) from weakly discharging mormyrid and gymnotiform electric fish is used in social communication. EODs are interesting for a number of reasons in addition to their communicative function: this behavior is the fastest physiological phenomenon known to humans, EODs are controlled simultaneously by the CNS through a descending medullary pathway and peripherally at the level of the electric organ through changes in membrane properties, and the EOD can be used as a bio-monitor for water quality. My research interests span both sources of control of the electric discharges from these fish and center on the role of steroid hormones and catecholamines in the neural control of electrocommunication. The EOD behavior of these fish is an excellent tool for secondary science education because these fish are fascinating to watch; the study of EODs is naturally interdisciplinary, combining chemistry, physics, and biology to investigate electricity produced by a biological system in water; and because it requires the integration of technology into scientific inquiry, as one must view EODs with oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer. Thus, the behavior of weakly discharging electric fish can be used to address a number of issues and concerns in science education reform. I am currently looking for opportunities to use the EOD system in developing secondary level science curricula that will be useful in the current movement to revamp science education.

    Lenz, Petra H.* Assistant Professor, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Copepods are uniquely adapted to inhabiting the pelagic environment. Using physiological, morphological and behavioral approaches, we are elucidating how special adaptations of the neural and motor systems promote the copepods' success. We have been quantifying the sensory and motor capabilities of these small planktonic crustaceans under laboratory conditions. This work has most recently dealt with predator-prey interactions. We have found that these animals outperform other crustaceans in mechanosensitivity to potential threat stimuli, force and energy production during the escape and behavioral reaction times. The approach used in these investigations is broad: we not only document performance, but also determine how it is achieved. Recently we discovered that exceptionally fast reaction times in some copepods correlate with the presence of myelinated nerve fibers. Myelin, best known in vertebrates, is a multilayered membranous wrap ensheathing nerve fibers and giving them a high conduction rate for nerve impulses. Among copepods, the presence of myelin is limited to the more recently-evolved calanoids, which also appear to have a more widespread distribution than the non-myelinated species.
    Email    Web Page

    Morton, Bruce E.* Professor Emeritus, School of Medicine, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: The broadest possible applications of Brain, Mind, and Consciousness to Human Behavior and Human Existence (see Web Site link below). These interest include the following:
    NEUROCHEMISTRY INVESTIGATIONS: Mechanism of action of Scotophobin, Palytoxin, Marijuana and Hallucinogens. Prophylactic minimization of stroke damage. Mapping of human brain psychoactive drug neurotransmitter receptors. Discovery of salivary serotonin and of its rapid elevation by pain, both physical and psychic. Clarification of the neurotransmitter receptors involved in the stress response pathway and their involvement in human upset and depression.
    NEUROPSYCHOLOGY INVESTIGATIONS: Cellular homeostasis as the origin of all living behavior, including human. Brain core punishment and reward as the sole independent drivers of downstream arousal. Locus coeruleus as a key component of the brain alarm system; its unique inhibition by drugs of abuse. Limbic Hexadyad Primary Emotions Model and its ties to brain core reward and punishment of behavior. The experimental reconstitution of human Hemesphericity. The Dual Quadbrain Model accounting for the entire spectrum of human behavior, including hemisphericity. Discovery of human Polarity; the reinterpretation of human history. Control of Executive Ego strength: from criminality to altruism. Human childhood critical periods of psychosocial brain development: their existence, their arrest, and discovery of the broken developmental arrest repair program (DARP), source of neurotic and psychotic behavior. Stress and stress disorders: causes, mechanism of eye movement-based cures.
    NEUROPHILOSPHY INVESTIGATIONS: Tetradic nature of reality. Structure of the Universe: endless levels, each containing unique types. Origin and nature of emergence and of emergent properties. Galactic singularity engine: origin of life. Triadism: the solution of the mind-body problem. Origin and nature of consciousness. Four primary thought processes of discovery. Taking control of the apoptotic ageing and death program in humans.
    NEURORELIGION INVESTIGATIONS: Foundation of the Society for Neurorealism. Neurorealism is a transformational context for existence bridging brain and mind, science and religion.
    These and other topics are addressed in detail in my Web Site below. I am happy to provide further clarification via email.
    Email    Web Page

    Nerurkar, Vivek R. Associate Professor, Retrovirology Research Laboratory, PBRC/UHM, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Refer to the web page for summary of research/education.
    Email    Web Page

    Olson, Mark* Junior Researcher, University of Illinois (former). Applying at U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Both my teaching and research interests are in the domain of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuropsychology. In particular I am interested in the cognitive neuropsychology of complex visual scene representation. The topic of my doctoral dissertation was The Perceptual Specificity of Representations of Complex Scenes for Rotation, Translation, and Reflection. In this research I analyzed subjects' eye movement patterns to determine whether they had recognition for complex scenes that were being represented using different pictures of that same scene. In another study I was able to determine from eye movement patterns whether subjects experienced a scene as being aesthetically pleasing or not. My current research intends on extending this research (without eye movements) using 3D stimuli. My interest in this research, however, is far superseded by my passion for teaching.

    Pasquale, Michael Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Queens.
    Interests: I am interested in continuing study and exchange of peripeheral nerve informationinjuries and conditions. I was Dr. Julia Terzis fellow for over a year and we completed serveral unpublished studies.%0D%0DI would like to become involved here in peripheral nerve etc as far as research pojects and the like.
    Email    Web Page

    Rayner, Martin D.* Professor, Dept. of Physiology, J A Burns Schl Med, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: The research focus of our laboratory is structure-function relationships in voltage-gated ion channels. At present our primary interest is in Shaker potassium channels where we are investigating the molecular mechanisms of activation/deactivation gating. This work is carried out using site directed mutations of fast inactivation removed Shaker channels. Wild-type and mutant channels are expressed in Xenopus oocytes and studied using single channel and macropatch techniques. Functional changes following specific amino acid alterations give interesting insights into the mechanisms of interaction between voltage-sensing and channel-gating components of the overall structure.
    Email    Web Page

    Robinow, Steven Assistant Professor, Dept. Zoology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
    Interests: My laboratory studies the genetic regulation of nervous system development in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We are particularly interested in understanding how developmental signals such as hormones, trophic factors and synaptic contacts regulate gene expression to control nervous system development and function. Currently, we are focusing on the regulation of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, in the nervous system. In Drosophila, the genes reaper, grim and head involution defective (hid) induce apoptosis when expressed at high levels. Two genes, Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis 1 (DIAP1) and DIAP2, prevent apoptosis when expressed. Ongoing research is investigating how these genes are expressed in doomed neurons. We have identified two distinct sets of neurons that die by apoptosis shortly after the emergence of the adult from the pupal case at the conclusion of metamorphosis. Interestingly, one set of neurons, the Type II neurons, accumulate reaper transcripts immediately prior to its death, while another set of doomed neurons do not. The regulation of grim, hid, DIAP1 and DIAP2 in these neurons is actively being studied. The death of both sets of neurons can be prevented by manipulating the titer of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E), a steroid hormone. Recent data support the notion that hormone treatment prevents the death of the Type II neurons by blocking transcription of the reaper gene. To test the validity of this notion, we are investigating the mechanism by which 20E treatment prevents reaper accumulation. A related avenue of investigation involves the identification of genes that are involved in ecdysteroid regulated processes. We are currently conducting a screen to identify candidate genes that may be involved in these pathways.

    Seifert, Josef* Chemist/Professor, Dept. Environmental Biochemistry, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Insecticide neurotoxicology,organophosphorous acid triesters, N-alkylcarbamates,bicyclophosphates, polychlorocycloalkanes,pyrethroids,cholinergic system, GABA-dependent neurotransmission,excitatory neurotransmission, L-tryptophan neuro-active metabolites, phospholipase A2.

    Starkus, John G. Researcher, Pacific Biomedical Research Center, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: As a neurophysiologist, I am interested in the voltage-gated mechanism in sodium and potassium ion channels. My research involves measurement not only of the sodium and potassium ionic current but also of the movement of charged sub-units within the protein macromolecule which are responsible for the opening and closing (gate) of ion channels. This research utilizes the patch clamping techniques and cell lines (i.e. frog oocytes) which express exogenous channels. My experimental work is directed at the question of how the voltage sensors which are confined to the S4 segments is able to control and interact with the channel gate. We approach our experimental questions by mutating key charged amino acids which may disrupt the voltage sensor to gate interactions. These finds will contribute to understanding how the ion channel controls cellular excitability and signaling at the molecular level.
    Email    Web Page

    Stollberg, Jes* Associate Professor, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: The theme uniting research in this laboratory is the study of how synapses form and mature during embryological development (synaptogenesis). Our experimental work is directed at the question of how the neuromuscular junction develops, and more specifically how acetylcholine receptors become aggregated on the muscle membrane where the nerve makes contact. In this context we employ several stimuli to induce receptor aggregation in a simple model system - muscle cells cultured from embryonic frogs. Many of our experiments involve quantitative fluorescence microscopy to measure the densities of receptors and other molecules on the cell surface; more recent experiments using scanning electron microscopy have proven successful in determining the ultrastructure of developing receptor aggregates. Theoretical work in this laboratory has been directed at mathematical modeling of aggregation processes, and at a quantitative analysis of the factors which can lead Hebbian synapses to drive a non random synapse elimination, thereby bringing about the size principle.
    Email    Web Page

    Sun, Piera S.* Associate Professor, Biotechnology Program, PBRC, U. Hawai`i.

    Takahashi, Lorey K.* Assistant Professor, Psychology, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I am interested in the neurobiology of emotional behavior, especially in relation to fear, anxiety, and depression. Three major lines of research were developed using animal models to gain insight into the neural systems and mechanims associated with these emotions. One line of research examines corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) systems and its role in fear and anxiety behavior. Another line of research investigates the effects of prenatal stress on the development of emotional behavior. The third area of interest is the effects of endogenous glucocorticords on the neurodevelopment of behavioral inhibition.

    Vercruyssen, Max* Associate Professor, JABSOM, U. Hawai`i.

    Yanagihara, Angel Anne* Junior Researcher, Bekesy Laboratory, PBRc, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Hawaiian box jellyfish (Carybdea alata), which reach high numbers on leeward beaches 8-10 days after each full moon, present a unique challenge to Hawaii Ocean Safety and Emergency Medical Service personnel as stings are excruciatingly painful and produce reactions that often persist for months. In the absence of any information about the nature of the venom, no effective treatment is available. During the past three years, we have made significant progress in elucidating the composition and the mechanism of action of the Hawaiian box jellyfish (Carybdea alata) venom. We have isolated and partially characterized a novel hemolytic lectin-like glycoprotein and discovered a venom component acting to accelerate the appearance of acetylcholine receptors on developing frog skeletal muscle cells in culture. These factors are currently the best known of the complex mixture of venom components observed in our work. Others include proteolytic and neurotoxic agents. We have succeeded in developing a rapid purification protocol specifically optimized for concentration and separation of one of possibly several hemolytic compounds. My laboratory is currently working to further purify this compound in order to obtain information on its amino acid composition and sequence and its lectin-like affinity for glycolytic groups that may explain its ability to bind to and lyse red blood cells and perhaps other types of cells. The observation that a venom factor (different from the hemolytic compound) accelerates the appearance of acetylcholine receptors on the surface of cultured muscle cells is novel and exciting for its promise to help explain neuromuscular symptoms observed in some victims of jellyfish stings and for its potential interest as a research tool in developmental biology. Our existing fractionation protocols and a relatively rapid means, using cultured embryonic frog muscle, to assay for the presence of the activity provide a starting point from which to purify and further biochemically and physiologically characterize this factor. Characterization of active components will include testing how each can be inactivated, with the purpose of developing practical, beach-side treatments. The potential benefits of purifying and characterizing bioactive agents from marine venoms go beyond improving clinical management of the toxic sting itself: cardioactive drugs, viral proteases and both specific and broad-spectrum, potent receptor and ion channel modulators have resulted from similar studies of other venoms. This study may well also lead to the discovery of important new medically relevant compounds.
    Email    Web Page

    Graduate Students

    Dugal, Jason R.*
    Interests: Recently relocated to Hawaii and seeking employment. My prior research at The University of New England was in the area of neuropharmacology. Projects included exploring the interaction between various brain regions and exploring the neurochemical effects of drugs of abuse. Abstracts/Publications: Dugal, J.R., Hoffman, J., Morgane, P.J., Galler, J.R., and Mokler, D.J. Interactions between the median (MRN) and dorsal (DRN) raphe nuclei as studied by dual probe microdialysis. Experimental Biology (FASEB) 2003, New England Pharmacology 2003. Hoffman, J., Buglio, A., Azie, B., Dugal, J., Mokler, D.J. Effects of fluoxetine on MDMA-induced serotonergic and dopaminergic neurotoxicity: a dual-probe microdialysis study. FASEB 2003, New England Pharmacology 2003. Interested in pursuing graduate study in neuroscience/pharmacology or related.
    Email    Web Page

    Fratzke, Mark Graduate Student, Shepherd Lab, Center for Cognitive Science, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: To describe the connection between brain injury, reward, substance abuse and neurological behavior changes unique to learning and memory. To identify biological, psychological and social factors associated with alcohol and other drug addiction generally, and commonly abused drugs specifically. To understand the current research regarding the impact of neurotransmitters on the learning process, and describe their effects on the central nervous system. To understand a variety of factors, which determine the effects of a drug on an individual and identify and apply key elements of effective memory consolidation. Mr. Fratzke is a behavioral neuroscientist and substance abuse counselor. For a decade and half now, he has been taking the clinical observations he has made while working as a substance abuse counselor into the laboratory, where he has helped our field to gain some insight into the neuro-behavioral consequences of drug abuse. His ultimate goal has been to improve the efficacy of substance abuse treatment. Mr. Fratzke has been disseminating up-to-date findings from his research: for example, the effects of caffeine on those with damage in the area of the nucleus reticularis tegmenti pontis, an area of the brain %96stem that appears to have a predisposition for damage by alcohol; and his award winning research on the effects of methadone on short-term memory. He lectures at the University of Hawaii and has made many presentations to the media and at the Society for Neuroscience meetings all over the continental United States, and at various substance abuse treatment facilities in Hawaii.
    Email    Web Page

    Markham, Chris M. Graduate Student, Blanchard Lab, Bekesy Laboratory, U. Hawai`i.

    Maruska, Karen P. * Graduate Student, Zoology Dept, U.H. & Haw. Inst. Marine Biol.
    Interests: My main research interests are in neuroethology and the neural basis of behaviors in fishes. My current dissertation research examines the effects of the neuropeptide hormones gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and arginine vasotocin (AVT) on the processing of biologically-relevant sensory information in coral reef fishes. Sound stimuli are extremely important cues used by fishes during social interactions such as territorial defense and mating, and most underwater sounds can stimulate both the lateral line and auditory systems. My research uses a combination of behavioral, neuroanatomical and neurophysiological techniques to test specific predictions of the sensory neuromodulation hypothesis to examine how GnRH and AVT may influence lateral line and acoustic information. This study will provide important information on how hormones influence the perception of sensory cues in fishes. Further, the conserved nature of hair cell-based sensory systems, GnRH and AVT peptides, and their receptors, indicates results will also be applicable across vertebrate taxa.

    Undergraduate Students

    High School Students

    Chang, Evangeline* High School Student, University Laboratory School, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I am a Biology student in Dr. Landsman's class at the University Laboratory School. I think that neuroscience is really fascinating.

    Ho, Vien* High School Student, University Laboratory School, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I would like to explore more in depth about neuroscience. I want to double major, one is in computer engineering and the second is undecided (science major).

    Hu, Stephanie* High School Student, University Laboratory School, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: Reading, playing the piano, doing community service, and conducting scientific experiments for biology class! I also love chemistry.

    Noh, Thomas * High School Student, University Laboratory School, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I am a Senior at the University Lab School and I eventually hope to become a neurosuregon. People have told me that I have very maniplative and deft hands and I have this facination of the nervous system. I believe that the whole field of Neurology is so vast and unexplored that being a surgeon may help to open new gates.

    Rodriguez, Clint* High School Student, University Laboratory School, U. Hawai`i.
    Interests: I am very interested in neuroscience, or at least from what we have studied so far, but probably would not want to take it as a major when I graduate.

    National Society for Neuroscience

    This web page is made possible by RCMI funding to the Pacific Biomedical Research Center (NIH grant RR/AI-03061), and by NSF Grant IBN97-24035 to the SFN_Webmaster.